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Search Blog — Nov 2004

  • November
    23

    Listening to our users

    First of all, thanks for your valuable feedback via the website and around the blogosphere. I read the feedback coming in from the site as a part of my job. Thankfully we’re past the performance hiccup of day 1 – the initial beta instability made for lots of uninteresting feedback! On the feature request side, we’re seeing lots of interesting ideas, some new and some old. Our advanced user base wants a more extensive search syntax. Other requests include audio search and more Encarta answers . Finally, I know many of you have done vanity searches – it’s about 25% of our relevance feedback. We’ve worked very hard lately to improve our ability to find your very own little corner of the web. That said, the majority of failed vanity searches were index issues. Please visit our submit url link to make sure your site is in the index. Use the “Help us Improve” feedback link. We’ll be reading. -Andy First of all, thanks for your valuable feedback via the website and around the blogosphere. I read the feedback coming in from the site as a part of my job. Thankfully we’re past the performance hiccup of day 1 – the initial beta instability made for lots of uninteresting feedback! On the feature request side, we’re seeing lots of interesting ideas, some new and some old. Our advanced user base wants a more extensive search syntax. Other requests include audio search and more Encarta answers . Finally, I know many of you have done vanity searches – it’s about 25% of our relevance feedback. We’ve worked very hard lately to improve our ability to find your very own little corner of the web. That said, the majority of failed vanity searches were index issues. Please visit our submit url link to make sure your site is in the index. Use the “Help us Improve” feedback link. We’ll be reading. -Andy
  • November
    19

    One week out and here's a roundup

    We launched the beta just over a week ago and there’s been a lot of discussion about what we’ve been doing. Reviews of the beta: WebProNews notes that the beta feedback has been mixed. Mike Hall loves the fact that we can help him with his algebra homework . Angsuman Chakraborty thinks that we released the Beta too early. He also questions the veracity of our site descriptions. I want to respond to this by re-iterating that there is no human intervention in our Index; all results are based on our algorithms. Cyan Bane is excited for desktop search and likes the results & the UI. Stingo likes the UI but thinks that our relevance needs work. Extending the beta: The first extensions of the beta! Internetreklama has bookmarklets for msn search on IE, Opera, Mozilla & Firefox. Thanks for making these. SEO Scoop discusses why someone should consider adding MSN Search to their site. About the blog (which has 249 public subscribers on bloglines , pretty good for 1 week old): Nathan isn’t sure if the blog is trying too hard or not, but is glad that we are using it. Mike Manuel has a play-by-play of our first set of posts. Peter Dawson told us in the blog comments that we should jump... Read More We launched the beta just over a week ago and there’s been a lot of discussion about what we’ve been doing. Reviews of the beta: WebProNews notes that the beta feedback has been mixed. Mike Hall loves the fact that we can help him with his algebra homework . Angsuman Chakraborty thinks that we released the Beta too early. He also questions the veracity of our site descriptions. I want to respond to this by re-iterating that there is no human intervention in our Index; all results are based on our algorithms. Cyan Bane is excited for desktop search and likes the results & the UI. Stingo likes the UI but thinks that our relevance needs work. Extending the beta: The first extensions of the beta! Internetreklama has bookmarklets for msn search on IE, Opera, Mozilla & Firefox. Thanks for making these. SEO Scoop discusses why someone should consider adding MSN Search to their site. About the blog (which has 249 public subscribers on bloglines , pretty good for 1 week old): Nathan isn’t sure if the blog is trying too hard or not, but is glad that we are using it. Mike Manuel has a play-by-play of our first set of posts. Peter Dawson told us in the blog comments that we should jump... Read More
  • November
    18

    Crawling the Internet...

    Now that we have a beta, people are starting to pay attention to whether their sites are in our index. The two most common questions we get are (1) why did you not crawl my site, and (2) you crawled page X, but its not in your index why? Let’s take these one at a time. Why did MSNBot not crawl my site? The answer to this is not straightforward so I will mention a couple of things that are worth considering. The first is to determine whether your pages are crawler friendly. An example of a page that might look "unfriendly" to a crawler is one that looks like this: http://www.somesite.com/info/default.aspx?view=22&tab=9&pcid=81-A4-76&section=848&origin=msnsearch&cookie=false . When MSNBot looks at this URL it gets scared (well, not really it’s a machine not a human so it doesn’t have feelings). The algorithm starts to wonder whether it is going to get stuck in a loop endlessly crawling every single permutation of the query parameters. Thus, URL’s with many (definitely more than 5) query parameters have a very low chance of ever being crawled. Another thing to consider is whether we can find your page. If we need to traverse through eight pages on your site before finding... Read More Now that we have a beta, people are starting to pay attention to whether their sites are in our index. The two most common questions we get are (1) why did you not crawl my site, and (2) you crawled page X, but its not in your index why? Let’s take these one at a time. Why did MSNBot not crawl my site? The answer to this is not straightforward so I will mention a couple of things that are worth considering. The first is to determine whether your pages are crawler friendly. An example of a page that might look "unfriendly" to a crawler is one that looks like this: http://www.somesite.com/info/default.aspx?view=22&tab=9&pcid=81-A4-76&section=848&origin=msnsearch&cookie=false . When MSNBot looks at this URL it gets scared (well, not really it’s a machine not a human so it doesn’t have feelings). The algorithm starts to wonder whether it is going to get stuck in a loop endlessly crawling every single permutation of the query parameters. Thus, URL’s with many (definitely more than 5) query parameters have a very low chance of ever being crawled. Another thing to consider is whether we can find your page. If we need to traverse through eight pages on your site before finding... Read More
  • November
    17

    What we will write about

    Taking a cue from IE team blog and from Robert Scoble’s Corporate Weblog Manifesto , allow me to lay out some basic principles and aspirations for the MSN Search blog: Honest and Respectful. We will tell the truth and stay the high road. ‘nuff said. Useful. We will announce new products, features and releases related to MSN Search. We will answer frequently asked questions, make clarifications, and once in a while we may address a rumor or two. We’ll discuss significant problems and fixes . Relevant. We will keep the blog current and post when we find that there are things to discuss. We aspire to cover a broad variety of topics over time, and cover a broad range of things that are interesting to you. To do that, the blog has to be… Personal. Various team members will contribute over time on topics they are passionate and knowledgeable about. Tantalizing. We intend to maintain a faint air of mystery. :-) Don’t expect us to reveal too much information about the inner workings of our search service, or about upcoming features and product plans. There are practical limitations on what we can say. Besides, it would be boring if we revealed all the secrets at once. Communal. We would like... Read More Taking a cue from IE team blog and from Robert Scoble’s Corporate Weblog Manifesto , allow me to lay out some basic principles and aspirations for the MSN Search blog: Honest and Respectful. We will tell the truth and stay the high road. ‘nuff said. Useful. We will announce new products, features and releases related to MSN Search. We will answer frequently asked questions, make clarifications, and once in a while we may address a rumor or two. We’ll discuss significant problems and fixes . Relevant. We will keep the blog current and post when we find that there are things to discuss. We aspire to cover a broad variety of topics over time, and cover a broad range of things that are interesting to you. To do that, the blog has to be… Personal. Various team members will contribute over time on topics they are passionate and knowledgeable about. Tantalizing. We intend to maintain a faint air of mystery. :-) Don’t expect us to reveal too much information about the inner workings of our search service, or about upcoming features and product plans. There are practical limitations on what we can say. Besides, it would be boring if we revealed all the secrets at once. Communal. We would like... Read More
  • November
    15

    Desktop Search

    As you may have heard, some screenshots from an internal pre-release build of MSN's desktop search product were recently posted on the Neowin site. While we're flattered by the attention and interest, this was an unauthorized disclosure. As many of you know, we have been working on a PC search product for some time, and have demonstrated some early prototypes over the past several months. We are still on track to deliver a beta verson of the product to customers before the end of this calendar year. We plan to release the beta bits only when we feel they are ready from a quality and completeness standpoint, and we’re looking forward to getting feedback from beta users at that time. osh As you may have heard, some screenshots from an internal pre-release build of MSN's desktop search product were recently posted on the Neowin site. While we're flattered by the attention and interest, this was an unauthorized disclosure. As many of you know, we have been working on a PC search product for some time, and have demonstrated some early prototypes over the past several months. We are still on track to deliver a beta verson of the product to customers before the end of this calendar year. We plan to release the beta bits only when we feel they are ready from a quality and completeness standpoint, and we’re looking forward to getting feedback from beta users at that time. osh
  • November
    13

    Google, Microsoft no longer 'more evil...

    As mentioned in a previous post on this blog, we recently received our first few MSN Bombs. One of these was the phrase “ more evil than satan ”, which brought up both Google and Microsoft in the top 10 results. A number of you sent us feedback on this. Well, we just pushed out our latest round of automated relevance improvements and they changed the results. Now neither Google nor Microsoft rank in the top 10 any more for this particular query. Our algorithm changed its mind. Just so you know (since I’m sure you’ll ask), this wasn’t a targeted change. We are constantly refining our ranking algorithms to produce the best, most accurate results, so changes like this happen all the time. Finally, for the record, we won’t be commenting on the ranking of individual results from here on out. The algorithm decides! Feel free to send us feedback . --Brady As mentioned in a previous post on this blog, we recently received our first few MSN Bombs. One of these was the phrase “ more evil than satan ”, which brought up both Google and Microsoft in the top 10 results. A number of you sent us feedback on this. Well, we just pushed out our latest round of automated relevance improvements and they changed the results. Now neither Google nor Microsoft rank in the top 10 any more for this particular query. Our algorithm changed its mind. Just so you know (since I’m sure you’ll ask), this wasn’t a targeted change. We are constantly refining our ranking algorithms to produce the best, most accurate results, so changes like this happen all the time. Finally, for the record, we won’t be commenting on the ranking of individual results from here on out. The algorithm decides! Feel free to send us feedback . --Brady
  • November
    12

    How we’re doing

    As you can imagine it’s been busy here. In the 2 days, we’ve served millions of page views and queries, rolled out a couple of system updates (note the improved performance) and yet I was still able to go see The Incredibles last night (it was great!). We’ve had over 1000 pieces of feedback sent to us, in addition to what we’ve seen in WebmasterWorld , the Search Engine Watch Forums , our newsgroup , and on blogs . The top things that we’ve heard so far are: UI suggestions & ideas – Thanks, we are paying attention to these and will evaluate them. Developer API requests – We plan on releasing something next year, as soon as we can. News Integration - There have been a lot of requests to integrate Newsbot with the Beta. Availability – Our system updates should help this area, but this is a Beta product and we are only using a small portion of our server farm. We will be increasing the number of machines over time and soon we will start to take traffic from our live site . Relevance – We have gotten a lot of feedback about relevance (over half our feedback) and we are actively reviewing them. As previously mentioned , we are using the feedback that we are receiving from you to get... Read More As you can imagine it’s been busy here. In the 2 days, we’ve served millions of page views and queries, rolled out a couple of system updates (note the improved performance) and yet I was still able to go see The Incredibles last night (it was great!). We’ve had over 1000 pieces of feedback sent to us, in addition to what we’ve seen in WebmasterWorld , the Search Engine Watch Forums , our newsgroup , and on blogs . The top things that we’ve heard so far are: UI suggestions & ideas – Thanks, we are paying attention to these and will evaluate them. Developer API requests – We plan on releasing something next year, as soon as we can. News Integration - There have been a lot of requests to integrate Newsbot with the Beta. Availability – Our system updates should help this area, but this is a Beta product and we are only using a small portion of our server farm. We will be increasing the number of machines over time and soon we will start to take traffic from our live site . Relevance – We have gotten a lot of feedback about relevance (over half our feedback) and we are actively reviewing them. As previously mentioned , we are using the feedback that we are receiving from you to get... Read More
  • November
    12

    Inside Near Me Search

    Several people have asked how the system performs a "Near Me" search for food bank near Seattle, WA so I thought it would be a good idea to explain how this is done here on the blog. As web pages are rolled into the index, the code looks for strings of text that are location references. In particular, text that is formatted as an address is given a high degree of confidence. When an address is found, tokens are added to the index that represents the location. When a “Near Me” search is executed, the engine is told to look for these tokens in addition to the query and adjust the results accordingly. The best way to ensure that your site is well represented in these results, assuming your site serves a local need, is to add the address of your business or service on the footer of the page you want selected when a user enters a query that you’re service might be able to satisfy. Often, sites will place address information on an “about” page. Unfortunately, these pages often do not rank well with the queries. Because of potential spam issues, we do not want to attempt to infer the location of a page based on tags in neighboring or child pages. In order to ensure the address is parsed properly... Read More Several people have asked how the system performs a "Near Me" search for food bank near Seattle, WA so I thought it would be a good idea to explain how this is done here on the blog. As web pages are rolled into the index, the code looks for strings of text that are location references. In particular, text that is formatted as an address is given a high degree of confidence. When an address is found, tokens are added to the index that represents the location. When a “Near Me” search is executed, the engine is told to look for these tokens in addition to the query and adjust the results accordingly. The best way to ensure that your site is well represented in these results, assuming your site serves a local need, is to add the address of your business or service on the footer of the page you want selected when a user enters a query that you’re service might be able to satisfy. Often, sites will place address information on an “about” page. Unfortunately, these pages often do not rank well with the queries. Because of potential spam issues, we do not want to attempt to infer the location of a page based on tags in neighboring or child pages. In order to ensure the address is parsed properly... Read More
  • November
    12

    MSN Bombs & Rumors

    As you would imagine, the launch of a new MSN Search Beta brought lots of conspiracy theories out into the open, and between the alleged flights of black helicopters, I thought I would give you guys some of the facts. We have the first set of reported MSN Bombs on our Beta. If you search for ‘ more evil than satan’ the first result is Google . If you type in ‘ evil corporation ' (thanks, Jeremy ) the first result is Microsoft . The query more evil is a bit more diplomatic showing both companies in the top two. These results come from our algorithms not from humans. One factor our Beta uses in ranking pages is the text of links that point to a page. If many links to a site contain a certain word or phrase, that site will rank highly in a query for that word or phrase. When you see an unusual result for a provocative phrase, this is frequently the cause (and this has happened before ). We are constantly refining our ranking algorithms to produce the best, most accurate results, expect these refinements to change. Another rumor that we would like to discuss is that we are scraping Google’s results to build our index. This is not true. As MSNDude has said we respect robots.txt and will... Read More As you would imagine, the launch of a new MSN Search Beta brought lots of conspiracy theories out into the open, and between the alleged flights of black helicopters, I thought I would give you guys some of the facts. We have the first set of reported MSN Bombs on our Beta. If you search for ‘ more evil than satan’ the first result is Google . If you type in ‘ evil corporation ' (thanks, Jeremy ) the first result is Microsoft . The query more evil is a bit more diplomatic showing both companies in the top two. These results come from our algorithms not from humans. One factor our Beta uses in ranking pages is the text of links that point to a page. If many links to a site contain a certain word or phrase, that site will rank highly in a query for that word or phrase. When you see an unusual result for a provocative phrase, this is frequently the cause (and this has happened before ). We are constantly refining our ranking algorithms to produce the best, most accurate results, expect these refinements to change. Another rumor that we would like to discuss is that we are scraping Google’s results to build our index. This is not true. As MSNDude has said we respect robots.txt and will... Read More
  • November
    11

    MSN Search Beta Availability Update

    In the process of making our new MSN Search beta broadly available we experienced some technical difficulties that caused the beta service to function improperly or be unavailable for some users for periods of time. We're working through these issues one by one and you should see service availability and quality improve soon if not already. We apologize for any inconvenience. We expected to find some problems in the beta, and we expect there will also be times when we limit service availability for maintenance purposes. We want to find those problems in order to help us build a higher quality product, and we appreciate your help in doing this. A few other notes: 1) Several people have reported problems with the search service and with this blog that appear to be browser compatibility issues with FireFox. We're working on broad browser support and have done some specific testing in this area, but it's clear more is needed. Thank you for the reports. 2) When reporting issues, please include as much detailed information as you can in your report so that we can reproduce and fix the bug. E.g. for browser errors, tell us which type of browser, the version number, and information on any proxy... Read More In the process of making our new MSN Search beta broadly available we experienced some technical difficulties that caused the beta service to function improperly or be unavailable for some users for periods of time. We're working through these issues one by one and you should see service availability and quality improve soon if not already. We apologize for any inconvenience. We expected to find some problems in the beta, and we expect there will also be times when we limit service availability for maintenance purposes. We want to find those problems in order to help us build a higher quality product, and we appreciate your help in doing this. A few other notes: 1) Several people have reported problems with the search service and with this blog that appear to be browser compatibility issues with FireFox. We're working on broad browser support and have done some specific testing in this area, but it's clear more is needed. Thank you for the reports. 2) When reporting issues, please include as much detailed information as you can in your report so that we can reproduce and fix the bug. E.g. for browser errors, tell us which type of browser, the version number, and information on any proxy... Read More
  • November
    11

    MSN Search Service Beta Now Available

    On behalf of the MSN Search team I'm very pleased to announce that we've begun the worldwide rollout of our new algorithmic search service Beta release. I invite you to check it out at http://beta.search.msn.com and send us feedback via the "help us improve" links. You can identify the Beta version by the text "Search (beta)" next to the MSN butterfly logo. This is an update of the service we started building in early 2003. We released it as a "Technology Preview" in July this year and more recently in early October at http://techpreview.search.msn.com to solicit early feedback. I want to convey a big thank you to all who sent bug reports and feedback on the tech preview... the feedback loop really helped, we learned a lot, and we made a number of changes in response to your suggestions. I hope you're happy with the results. If you want to engage in general discussion on the new search service please visit our newsgroup . We know still have a lot of work left to do. We'll keep you updated here as we make progress. osh Oshoma Momoh General Manager, MSN Search Program Management On behalf of the MSN Search team I'm very pleased to announce that we've begun the worldwide rollout of our new algorithmic search service Beta release. I invite you to check it out at http://beta.search.msn.com and send us feedback via the "help us improve" links. You can identify the Beta version by the text "Search (beta)" next to the MSN butterfly logo. This is an update of the service we started building in early 2003. We released it as a "Technology Preview" in July this year and more recently in early October at http://techpreview.search.msn.com to solicit early feedback. I want to convey a big thank you to all who sent bug reports and feedback on the tech preview... the feedback loop really helped, we learned a lot, and we made a number of changes in response to your suggestions. I hope you're happy with the results. If you want to engage in general discussion on the new search service please visit our newsgroup . We know still have a lot of work left to do. We'll keep you updated here as we make progress. osh Oshoma Momoh General Manager, MSN Search Program Management
  • November
    10

    Hello, World

    As you all know we have decided to join the fray and we have been listening to what you've had to say about our TechPreview . We've decided to start our own blog so that we can keep you all up-to-date on what's happening with our product, our team and our industry. Keep watching this space for updates. -- Brady Forrest MSN Search PM As you all know we have decided to join the fray and we have been listening to what you've had to say about our TechPreview . We've decided to start our own blog so that we can keep you all up-to-date on what's happening with our product, our team and our industry. Keep watching this space for updates. -- Brady Forrest MSN Search PM